40% of Australia is undisturbed wilderness
August 27, 2008
More than 40 percent of Australia—three million square kilometers—is undisturbed wilderness, reports a new study by Pew Environment Group and Nature Conservancy. The extent of Australia’s wildlands ranks with the Amazon rainforest, Antarctica, Canada’s boreal forest, and the Sahara as the largest on the planet.
“Few Australians realize the extent and quality of their own wilderness,” Barry Traill, a wildlife ecologist who co-authored the study, was quoted as saying by Fairfax newspapers. “We just take what’s here for granted, not realizing how rare it is. As the world’s last great wilderness areas disappear under pressure from human impact, to have a continent with this much remaining wilderness intact is unusual and globally significant.”
The bulk of the Australia’s untouched [*] areas are in its dry regions, including its deserts and savannas. The tropical northern Cape York Peninsula was also listed in the report.
The study warned that while Australia still has large amounts of wilderness, these areas are at risk from invasive species. The authors argue for more spending on indigenous rangers to oversee the nature zones.
[*] Editor’s note: Scientists believe that humans caused widespread changes to Australia’s environment upon reaching the continent some 50,000 years ago. Burning of vegetation and hunting triggered a mass extinction of Australia’s largest animals and forever changed its plant communities. Therefore “untouched” is a relative term.